The Rings of Power: Title Sequence Explained
The Rings of Power: Title Sequence Explained
A show’s title sequence is one of the most important things for establishing the tone of the series. An excellent title sequence can immerse the audience within that world and build their excitement for the story that is about to unfold in the particular episode they are watching. There have been so many legendary title sequences over the years, ranging from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to Game of Thrones, Daredevil, The Office, and more. Considering The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has been one of the most anticipated shows of the last few years, there was a lot of excitement to see what the title sequence of this new Middle-Earth series would be.
With the show’s debut at the beginning of September, eager viewers were treated to a title sequence distinctly different from contemporary fantasy shows like House of the Dragon. The Rings of Power’s title sequence is an ever-shifting mosaic of Middle-Earth symbolism, with references to both the past and future of the world depicted in the show. With each new symbol being made of sand that moves into new shapes and figures, it’s a visually striking sequence, but its meaning isn’t immediately clear. However, when delving deeper into the inspirations behind the title sequence, it becomes even more beautiful and enchanting than it is upon first viewing.
Cymatics and Chladni Figures
First off, the shifting sand of the sequence is a notion taken directly from the concept of cymatics, which is the observation of how sound and vibrations can have a direct effect on the physicality of objects. The idea was first explored by the likes of the 17th and 18th-century scientists Robert Hooke and Ernst Chladni. They discovered that when a surface is covered with a fine material or liquid, certain vibrations and noises create nodal lines along that surface. The loose material would then fall into these lines, essentially re-aligning itself to form different shapes and patterns. Many of these natural designs have become known as Chladni Figures.
The title sequence of The Rings of Power employs this concept to great effect. As the grandiose title theme, composed by Howard Shore, plays over the sequence, grains of sand are shown to be aligning and re-aligning to form different shapes and symbols. Some of these shapes appear to be specifically taken from the various charts of Chladni Figures, while others are symbols and sigils that have been pulled from Tolkien’s overall lore of the land of Middle-Earth and its overall world of Arda. They shift and adjust to the sound of the music, with various specific references to the lore of Arda able to be found within the shapes that are formed.
The studio Plains of Yonder was hired to create the sequence, with Katrina Crawford and Mark Bashore specifically directing it. To start, they had the idea for the title sequence to be created from sound rather than film, in reference to Tolkien’s creation myth depicted in The Silmarillion. The idea grew from there, as more and more elements from Tolkien’s Legendarium were incorporated into the sequence. Speaking with Variety, Crawford said, “That transformation is such a metaphor for everything. For the world-building, for the breaking, for the destruction, for the epic-ness of Lord of the Rings.”
The Music of the Ainur
The creation myth that inspired the use of cymatics in the Rings of Power title sequence is detailed in Tolkien’s history of Middle-Earth, specifically within the first chapter of The Silmarillion. It is referred to as the Ainulindalë, and it depicts Eru (also referred to as Ilúvatar), who is essentially the God of Tolkien’s world. Eru creates the Ainur, the Holy Ones, who are the angels of the universe. Eru teaches the Ainur how to sing, and so they all begin singing their holy song, first one at a time, but they gradually begin singing together in harmonies. However, one of the most powerful Ainur, named Melkor, began injecting his own ideas and sounds into the music, disrupting the perfect harmony of it all.
It is with this Great Song, the Music of the Ainur, that Eru and the Ainur created the world of Arda and the living things that inhabit it. Through the songs of Eru and the Ainur, the land, seas, skies, and various creatures of the world were brought into existence. The dissonance of Melkor and several other Ainur he recruited to his songs, however, were responsible for the evil and dark things of the world. Over the course of the time that followed, many of the Ainur would enter into the world they created. That world was named Arda, and the Ainur became known as the Valar and the Maiar. Melkor was one of the Ainur to travel into Arda, and he would eventually be renamed Morgoth and become the first Dark Lord of the world. In addition to his many dark deeds in the First Age of Middle-Earth, he is also responsible for the destruction of the Two Lamps and the Two Trees of Valinor, the latter of which was briefly shown in the opening of The Rings of Power.
The use of sound to create the shapes and symbols seen in the title sequence of The Rings of Power is a direct reference to the creation of Arda through the songs of Eru and the Ainur. It is a symbolic depiction of the Ainulindalë, Tolkien’s creation myth of Middle-Earth. It is even complete with a dark force weaving its way through the creation, disrupting what has the peace of the formation. While the concept may not be clearly laid out within the story of the show, nor specifically mentioned in the sequence itself, it is a deep cut for fans of Tolkien’s world and lore. It shows that, even though The Rings of Power has some stark differences between its story and that of Tolkien’s texts, the creators behind the show have rooted their story within the mythology of the Middle-Earth.
The History of Arda and Middle-Earth
As for the specific symbols and events that are shown within the title sequence, there are many references to the history of Arda and Middle-Earth, as well as hints towards what may be coming later in the series. One of the most obvious references is that of the numerous rings of sand that appear throughout the sequence. These rings can be seen in various numbers, specifically in groups of nine, seven, three, and ultimately one standing alone. These are depictions of the various Rings of Power that the series has been titled after. Viewers will certainly see the forging of these rings and their division amongst the races of Men, Dwarves and Elves, as well as the One Ring that Sauron will use to control them all.
There are also numerous references to the events of the First Age, and the times prior to it, throughout the sequence. One of the standout references is the appearance of two trees placed opposite one another. These are Telperion and Laurelin, the Two Trees of Valinor, which brought light to the world before they were destroyed by Melkor and the spider giant Ungoliant. The design of the Two Trees in this intro evokes the sigil of the White Tree of Gondor seen in The Lord of the Rings. This similar design makes sense, as the Gondorian tree was a seedling of a white tree on the Island Kingdom of Númenor, which itself traces back to the tree Galathilion which was made in the image of Telperion. Another key symbol seen in the Rings of Power intro is a spiral pattern with three rounded edges sprouting off its center. This could be a depiction of the three Silmarils, key jewels in the events of the First Age and the Time of the Trees, as well as the inspiration behind the title of The Silmarillion. The eight-pointed Star of Fëanor can also be seen, as a reference to one of the most important Elves in the history of Arda and Middle-Earth. Fëanor was a great hero, creator of the Silmarils and the palantiri, and he was a central figure in the wars against Melkor/Morgoth.
There are various other designs that can be made out from the sand of the title sequence, but as of yet none have stood out as much as those previously outlined. There are a group of mountains that can be seen briefly at one point. These could represent the formation of the land of Arda, or potentially the island of Númenor, or any number of key mountain chains such as the Thangorodrim in Angband. Much of what is seen in the title sequence of The Rings of Power is sure to become clearer as the series progresses. The creators of the sequence have said that there are numerous hidden allusions to what is coming in the series, with some that are seen more clearly than others. Whatever other secrets are hidden within these opening credits are sure to reveal themselves more in time.